We all say foolish things. Heck, that’s why social media is so popular. At least most of us don’t try to turn those comments into legislation.
But that’s what’s happening with a proposed media law in Florida that’s designed to go after bloggers. I’m not exaggerating. A section of the proposed law is titled, “Blogger registration and reporting.” Anyone who loves their rights should cringe when politicians talk about mandatory registration and fines. (Gun owners know what I mean.)
The bill was proposed by Republican state senator Jason Brodeur as a way of forcing what he calls “transparency” on political lobbyists. He wants to stop politicians from hiring bloggers to write a story and then have the campaigns turn around and quote that article. That sounds like he has an ax to grind that would make Paul Bunyan envious.
Overnight, the bill has gone viral as a how-not-to for state government. Numerous outlets tied it to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and used his name, image or both to attack him – with the ammo Brodeur handed them. Mother Jones compared the bill to something done by the prime minister of Hungary, a man libs love to hate: “Is Florida’s Blogger Registration Bill Inspired by Viktor Orbán?” And the lefty group Free Press didn’t pull punches with its criticism: “Florida’s Dangerous Anti-Blogger Bill Is Blatantly Unconstitutional.”
Only there’s more than a kernel of truth in the criticism, as much as it galls me to admit it. Brodeur wants bloggers to report whoever pays them if they write about the “Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature,” rounded off to the nearest $10.
In a video posted to Twitter March 5, he said it would only apply to “bloggers who are paid, compensated to influence or advocate on state elections.” Of course, that’s not what the bill says and, even if it said that, it’s an awful idea.
The bill also pretends that journalists at big news outlets are somehow better than bloggers. They aren’t covered by the rules. But a blogger who dares to report on state politics has to register and reveal the site’s funding just for the privilege of writing about the Powers That Be. It’s the journalism version of a poll tax where the government makes you suffer just so you can exercise your rights.
The result benefits the very leftist media the senator opposes – twice.
For the record, Fox News has reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ office for comment on the proposal but has not heard back.
First off, Brodeur becomes a perfect metaphor for how the right ham-handedly attacks the press. (And I say as someone who has several thousand more hours bashing the leftist press than he does.) The media just love him for it.
There’s more. Brodeur recreated a two-tiered system legitimizing the legacy press that treats conservatives horribly.
This is exactly the system that cropped up when journalists pushed Congress to pass a national shield law, giving them more protection from lawsuits. Only then it was establishment journalists trying to kick bloggers out of their reindeer games, because many bloggers were conservative. During that battle, the Freedom of the Press Foundation correctly warned that, “Congress’ Dangerous Attempts to Define ‘Journalist’ in Shield Law Threaten to Exclude Bloggers.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Student Press Law Center repeated that criticism and made a point that, frankly, Brodeur needs to hear. “Journalism is an act, not a status.” Any one of us can do journalism and, yes, even get paid doing so.
As a reminder for the good senator, the U.S. Constitution has a key section about “freedom of the press.” Nowhere in that document does it limit that freedom to big news outlets. Like the other rights in the First Amendment – religion, speech, assembly and petitioning our government – they apply to every single one of us.